Love them or fear them, sharks are frequently on the minds of surfers around the world. In 2019 there were 96 recorded shark attacks worldwide with five proving fatal. These are small numbers when you consider how many people enter the marine environment every year but there is nevertheless something terrifying about the prospect of being eaten by an apex predator.
Surfing is one of the last frontiers where humans venture into the wilderness alongside large, potentially hostile creatures. We’re incredibly vulnerable in the marine environment.
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Sharks in close proximity to humans
Thousands of surfers worldwide – myself included – have seen a shark over the past year. I daresay that millions of us have had close encounters that we don’t even know about.
Watch the below drone footage to see how blissfully unaware of sharks we are.
Reducing the risk of shark attack
Many products have been designed to reduce the risk of shark attack but only a few have made it to the mass market. Powdered shark repellent infuses the smell of dead shark into the ocean but is not exactly pleasant to carry around. Electronic products need to be able to endure the highly corrosive ocean environment. Most of them also have limited battery life and require regular recharging. If you’ve ever been travelling you’ll know how hard it is sometimes just to charge your mobile phone, nevermind your shark deterrent device. Probably most importantly is that many of the high-tech products that have been released are beyond the budget of the average surfer.
Stickers and patterned products are largely unproven in rigorous scientific trials, although many companies continue to sell these products. Below is the Shark Camo surfboard decal that was popular in the early 2000s.
The Sharkbanz story
Father and son team of David and Nathan Garrison decided to develop a product that is low maintenance, simple to use and demonstrates efficacy in real-world tests.
Their solution comes in the form of a shark deterrent band called Sharkbanz. The product is a simple, no-fuss, reasonably priced option for people who have a fear of sharks (or for those who fear for the safety of their loved ones!). It simply straps to your leg or arm – you choose – so you can go forth and play in the ocean without worrying about the ‘men in grey suits’ lurking below.
The ocean remains the last frontier on our planet, but we couldn’t believe that in the 21st century, no user-friendly solution existed to help ease our mind and offer protection. After a particularly spooky day of nervous laughter and conversations about the weather to avoid the pointy subject, my father and I decided to do something about it.
Nathan Garrison, Co-Founder Sharkbanz
Designed for surfers, Sharkbanz uses patented magnetic technology to deter sharks. The band features a large integrated magnet that emits a strong frequency into the surrounding marine environment.
In a research study, Bull Sharks were 85% more likely to display avoidance behaviour when baited dummies were wearing Sharkbanz than without. This is quite obviously statistically significant, especially considering that Bull Sharks are the species most likely to bump and bite a surfer.
There are some places I have been surfing that I just won’t surf without my Sharkbanz. There is a place where I always surf alone, and then there is a place I foil that has murky water and people have seen a Tiger there and it freaks me out so I have been wearing it. Firstly, I don’t even notice it; really just like a leggie, but when I fall and have to swim for my board, the feeling I have at that moment is so good. Seriously I don’t surf the place without it anymore. Thank you guys, I love it.
– Barton Lynch, 1988 World Surf Champion, Pro Surf Coach — Sydney, Australia
Sharkbanz Technology has also been verified by an independent third-party analysis group at the prestigious School of Coastal Environment Department of Marine Science at Coastal Carolina University. View the research on Sharkbanz website.
Product review: Sharkbanz 2
We tested the Sharkbanz 2 product in a range of conditions. It was worn on our ankles in conditions ranging from freezing cold (over the top of a wetsuit) to cool (strapped directly onto the skin). Here is our video review.
I found the band easy to use and completely non-invasive. Some notes are listed below.
The product is comfortable to wear. It weighs about 85 grams (3 ounces) and fits snugly around the ankle. The additional weight didn’t make a difference to our surfing but may be noticeable to someone with more skill.
I couldn’t feel any magnetic effect and research has confirmed that humans lack magnetoreception – or the ability to detect magnetic forces. I did, however, wonder if a magnet strong enough to repel a shark might have some physiological effect. After all, about 70 percent of the body’s iron is found in our red blood cells – called haemoglobin – and in muscle cells called myoglobin. Is it possible that the magnet could interfere with blood flow?
Turns out that magnetic therapy has been used in many modalities to heal ailments and improve health. While the benefits are largely unproven, some groups, like the World Health Organisation, suggest limiting exposure to strong magnets where possible.
The benefits in terms of peace of mind and shark protection almost certainly outweigh potential risks. It would be good to discover the Sharkbanz electromagnetic rating in terms of tesla, (T) or millitesla (mT).
The WHO recommended limits are a time-weighted average of 200 mT during the working day for occupational exposure, with a ceiling value of 2 T.
We thankfully have no shark interactions to report from our testing over 40+ hours across a range of conditions, from murky to clear, tropical water to freezing cold. Friends who have used a Sharkbanz band for multiple years have also reported no incidents.
Please be aware that the magnet is powerful. My partner put the Sharkbanz on while wearing her FitBit and her FitBit promptly died. The product info sheets repeatedly warn not to place the Sharkbanz within 30cm of electronic equipment.
When you’re travelling, keep the device in its box, which is designed to minimise the effect of the magnet.
Take off your watch and put your phone away when using Sharkbanz!
The product is well designed. Before using it you need to trim the band so that you avoid having a flapping strap on your ankle. We completely forgot that we were wearing the Sharkbanz in our tests.
Worn on Ankle or Wrist
Universal Fit – Ages 5+
Dive, Swim, Surf – 100m/330ft
TSA and Airline Travel-Friendly
Magnetic Shielded Box for Safe Storage
Weight: 3 oz.
Warranty: This product is fully guaranteed against faulty workmanship and materials for 1 year
The Sharkbanz mission
The Sharkbanz team have a clear mission and will undoubtedly continue to refine and develop their product offering. Their mission is for the product to be:
Effective – Technology based on proven science, published research and testing verified by an independent third-party analysis group.
Simple – No batteries, no charging; always on
Affordable – Safety for everyone
Stylish – Ergonomic design and premium materials for enhanced comfort
Sharkbanz also pledge 3% of profits to shark conservation, which is impressive.
I enjoyed using the Sharkbanz deterrent band and definitely felt increased peace of mind while surfing with it. My fellow testers felt the same way.
While I probably wouldn’t use the Sharkbanz 2 every day, it will most definitely be strapped to my ankle when the water is murky or when surfing at a new location – especially a river mouth.
This is not a paid review. We receive products from manufacturers and test them over weeks, months and even years to help you make more informed purchasing decisions. We do sometimes use affiliate links so that if you purchase a product we receive a small commission which is used to keep the site alive.
Review of the Sharkbanz 2 shark deterrent band – highly recommended